If you have noticed subtle discoloration in your smile, it’s likely just your dentin becoming exposed as your enamel starts eroding over time. This sort of discoloration is common and is often treated by improving your at-home oral care and pursuing teeth whitening treatments. However, in cases where teeth are turning significantly darker, it’s a sign of something much more sinister: a dead tooth.
Dead teeth are not in any way cosmetic and need to be examined by your dentist in Ephrata. Here are the main causes.
What is a Dead Tooth?
When the nerves inside the tooth die, it can cause the tooth to die as well and become what dentists refer to as “non-vital.” Once this stage occurs, it will cease all blood flow and begin changing color, typically a dark yellow, gray, or even black. You may also feel significant pain when a tooth is dying and experience a foul taste or odor from the mouth, even after brushing.
If we’re talking about the direct cause of dead teeth, it’s a lack of blood flow to the tooth’s pulp. If the pulp begins to die, it can’t provide blood to its living cells, which require blood to live. Instead, bacteria consume on the decaying matter, leading to the symptoms mentioned.
Dead teeth are not particularly common but can occur in two ways: decay and trauma.
Cause #1: Tooth Decay
Tooth decay starts at the outermost layer, the enamel. Once decay penetrates through that and the next layer, the dentin, it can reach the pulp. As the cavity grows, so does the number of bacteria in the mouth. This creates a direct path for more bacteria to enter the cavity and cause damage.
While the body does it’s best to fight back with white blood cells and an inflammatory reaction, it won’t be enough to stop the bacteria from attacking. Eventually, your nerves will begin to starve as blood flow ceases, leading to bad tooth pain and discoloration. If you fear that your tooth is dying due to decay, you’ll need to visit your dentist as soon as possible.
Cause #2: Dental Trauma
When a tooth suffers significant trauma, either from a bad fall or a sporting accident, blood vessels inside the tooth can burst. This causes a loss in blood flow and eventually death of the nerves. The main difference between a tooth dying from trauma and decay is you’re more likely to seek treatment after sudden trauma. If a tooth is broken or cracked, especially below the gum line, you need to see your dentist in Ephrata the same day.
Keep in mind this sort of trauma can also occur when clenching or grinding your teeth. This condition is known as bruxism and its effects can be managed by wearing a nightguard while you sleep. It also helps to reduce stress in your life, which is a common cause of teeth grinding and clenching.
A dead tooth is not something to ignore, even if you don’t experience pain. Schedule an appointment with your family dentist in Ephrata to get the treatment your mouth needs!
About the Author
Dr. Sean Moriarty earned his DMD degree from the Maurice H. Kornberg School of Dentistry at Temple University. Prior to graduating, he was a member of the Oral Surgery Honor Society and conducted extensive research in the graduate endodontic clinic. To learn more about his practice, contact him through his website.